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Judy Ackerman Protesting at Rio Bosque

EL PASO – A 55-year-old Army veteran hunkered down in front of construction crews who were building the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday, halting work for about eight hours before she was arrested.

Judy Ackerman, one of about a dozen people at a peaceful protest east of El Paso on Wednesday, was handcuffed by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers after several hours of figuring out which authority was responsible for removing her. It wasn’t clear what charges she’d face.

Work on the fence resumed immediately after Ms. Ackerman was led away. Before her arrest, the white-haired woman sporting a reflective vest and hard hat cheerfully chatted with authorities. About 20 workers were milling around the site, leaning against heavy equipment and dump trucks and taking pictures of her with their cellphones.

“They have a job to do, but today their job is to take a break,” said Ms. Ackerman, a retired sergeant major who spent 26 years in the Army.

She crossed a canal before workers arrived and took up a position on a levee where large steel poles were being erected. The levee is in a desolate area several miles east of downtown El Paso, near the 370-acre Rio Bosque Wetlands Park.

“They have this wonderful park here, and the wall is messing it up,” Ms. Ackerman said.

She was on land maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission. Al Riera, the principal engineer for the commission, said officials were notified about her presence early Wednesday and spent several hours trying to figure out what agency should remove her.

The Associated Press

www.vmlaw.us

I gave this speech at last night’s City Commission meeting.

John Bruciak isn’t the only one “caught in the crossfire,” to quote Commissioner Atkinson.  All of Brownsville is ducking for cover as racism, xenophobia, and hatred, spit from the lips of Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs are aimed at our beloved borderlands.  Even our city commission has become wounded with rancor.  Who among us will have the courage to stand up amidst the fray and fight for our land and our way of life?  I will tell you who: over 98% of the residents along the border wall route, that’s who.

 

This week, members of Border Ambassadors, CASA, and the No Border Wall Coalition have met with 123 landowners along the route of the fence and 121 of them (over 98%) signed the Mayor’s declaration, deciding they aren’t going to act scared anymore.  Given the will of the people, will this commission continue to capitulate, or will it stand up and fight for what it claims it wants: No Border Wall!?

 

And who among us will be the peacemakers, for as Jesus said, they will be called the children of God?  This wall was started by those who think the United States and Mexico are enemies, and it will be stopped by the peacemakers who recognize the brotherhood of mankind.  This wall is motivated out of fear, but as John said, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”  Who here is willing to love this country enough to stop it from building its own Berlin Wall?

 

I urge this commission to find the love, forgiveness, and courage to join the people of Brownsville.  Put aside your animosity and unite in our common fight.

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Today, I gave this speech to the Brownsville City Council Meeting during the public comment portion.  The Brownsville Herald ran an article on Sunday that said that the Mayor was betrayed by the City Council who went behind closed doors to allow the Army Corps of Engineers onto city land to survey for the wall.  It is in response to that that I wrote this speech-on the back, and in the margins of the agenda.   

Yesterday, Princeton University recognized five of my 8th grade students for essays they wrote on the topic “What would Martin Luther King say and do about immigration?”  Princeton opened this year’s essay contest to my students because they used my blog, nonviolent migration, as a resource for their contest.  These five students, Melissa Guerra, Yessenia Martinez, Abigail Cabrera, Vanessa Trevino, and Blanca Gonzalez were the only five students who had the faith to submit an essay and all were recognized by Princeton. 

I asked the rest of my 121 students to speak honestly about why they had decided not to write for the contest.  The overwhelming number of students responded that it wasn’t worth trying because they felt that because Princeton is in the North, they would prejudge their work since they live on the border.  This experience reminded me once again just how excluded these children feel.   Even though this wall will be South of most of my students, my students are smart enough to know that the same motive behind this wall is also shouting at them, saying, “You are not us; keep out!” 

These students, who started with such enthusiasm when the contest was announced, lost hope and they let their fears overcome their faith.  This broke my heart because I love my students, but your capitulation is something other than heartbreaking because you are no longer 8th graders.  We expect you to hold out hope.  We expect you to keep the faith.  We expect you to work for us, and let us fight this fight. 

At this time, we want to express our love… and forgiveness… to all the members of the commission.  However, as a result of your action, we must now find a legal way to undo what you’ve done so that my 8th graders don’t come to learn that you prejudged them too. 

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Once again, I have to point you in the direction of a friend of mine who wrote an excellent article entitled, “Duty Free.”

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Stop the wall this spring break. 

A year and a half ago, Border Ambassador Jay Johnson-Castro went on a 15 day walk through the Texas communities that will be affected if the Secure Fence Act of 2006—already federal law—becomes a reality.  His walk, which he undertook basically alone, was covered by the BBC[1] and other international media, as well as multiple articles in the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express News.[2]  Hearing of the walk, Republican Governor Rick Perry (a proponent of the wall) held a press conference about border security in the tiny community of Rio Grande City while Jay was walking through town.

Why would one man require a response from such a powerful person?  Why would Governor Perry even care about one Don Quixote-like figure plodding through the long stretches of nothingness?  Why would the Houston Chronicle give its front page as a pulpit for a solitary nobody doing something so crazy?  These questions have elusive answers, but those familiar with the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s are better equipped to make sense of them than most.  Two clues are found in familiar phrases from that generation.  “Unearned suffering is redemptive,” which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often said, and “You got to move,” a favorite phrase of the Highlander Folk School—who trained Rosa Parks and others—have oriented my understanding of why a walk can be so powerful.

Following that motto, “You got to move,” this spring break—from March 8th to the 16th—local educators and students, along with religious and civic leaders will walk 115 miles (13 miles each day for 9 days) from Roma to Brownsville as a form of nonviolent direct action.  We invite you to partner with us in an alternative spring break, by following this link.  http://www.mysignup.com/noborderwallwalk  There you will make a commitment to participate and input your information.  We will then contact you with the necessary details.

The purpose of this walk is to show support for local landowners who do not want to give the Army Corps of Engineers access to their property.  These landowners are facing litigation by the U.S. Government, and are acting very courageously in spite of this threat.  Many more landowners would resist the government if they knew they were supported.  A second purpose is to gain the attention of the nation, especially during this election year.

Through today’s New York Times,[3] land owner Eloisa Tamez’s plan for resistance was shared with a national audience.  Eloisa works closely with Jay Johnson-Castro in the fight to prevent this wall from segregating our community, but she isn’t the only land owner along the proposed fence route.  Now is the time to share her story, Jay’s story, and spread the message of our collective struggle.  Please join us and invite your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.

Today, at a public hearing for the Enviornmental Impact Statement for the proposed border wall, I read this statement:

 

As a military veteran who served four tours of duty to the Middle-East, I would like to address the Department of Homeland Security about the topic of security. While I was a sergeant, I was honored to serve with young men and women who sacrificed greatly for this country.  Like me, most came from humble homes of modest means where they learned how to work hard, get along with others, and sacrifice for the greater good.  While we were not the wealthiest or most educated, I feel that our platoon included some of the best people I had ever known.  Specialist Muñoz-Marin was not yet a citizen of the United States.  Sergeant Munguia, the greatest soldier I have ever known, was the son, brother, and cousin of family who had crossed the border illegally

            But regardless of family background, the common thread among the best of these soldiers was the reason for their service.  It affected the way they served.  These were the soldiers who volunteered for the tough assignments, even for the extra tours of duty.  That reason was this: they weren’t mainly trying to protect their own interest, their home land, or even their family.  Instead, they were trying to protect the idea and aspiration of America itself.  They were protecting what America means, what it is.  They weren’t guarding Betsy Ross, apple pie, or baseball; they were protecting something even more American than those things.  They were protecting liberty, equality, and democracy.  And while I have since come to understand the futility of war as a tool of liberty and democracy, I acknowledge that our best soldiers are serving with the understanding that what it means to be an American soldier is to sacrifice personal security in order to preserve liberty.

            So as someone who repeatedly made that trade, because that is what it means to be an American soldier, learning that my government would so cheaply surrender our liberty in favor of security is terrifying.

            I say terrifying because of the idea of terror and tierra—earth.  This wall, we are told, must be understood in a post-9/11-world.  It is, they say, a proper defense against terrorism.  But tumbling towers are not the only causes of trembling tierra.  Terrorism is not the only thing that threatens to pull the rug out from under us.  The very liberty which our soldiers are defending will erode from under their feet if we build this wall this way.

Indeed, nothing could be less American.  This wall this way erodes our bedrock values by changing us from one of the liberating allies of West Berlin to the Communist isolationists of East Berlin.  This wall this way erodes our fundamental identity by changing us from post-Martin Luther King America to pre-Ming Dynasty China.

            When you next see him, please tell Mr. Chertoff that the more zealously he pushes this forward, the more quickly he advances, the more responsibility will fall on his personal shoulders.  No lie can live forever and when truth crushed to earth has risen again, his zeal may earn him a legacy like Bull Connor of Birmingham.   As fellow humans, we extend to Mr. Chertoff our love and forgiveness.  Please, sir, do not trample our rights.

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